The Purge Movie Poster Image

The Purge

Home invasion movie has intense ideas, strong violence.
  • Rated: R
  • Genre: Horror
  • Release Year: 2013
  • Running Time: 85 minutes

What parents need to know

Positive messages
The messages in this movie occupy complex gray areas. The youngest boy in the family tries to do a good deed, but it goes horribly awry. The family must also decide between fighting (possibly killing others or getting killed) or facing certain death. Then there's the overall message of the "purge" itself. The movie includes many voices on television and radio arguing over the event's good points and bad points -- although either way it comes down to violence and killing without consequences.
Positive role models
Most of the characters are simply meant to illustrate the horrific, dual-sided nature of the movie's sinister idea; they're symbolic rather than sympathetic. The main characters are kind and likeable, and they exhibit bravery in the face of danger, but viewers are certainly better off questioning their behavior than emulating it.
The movie starts off with surveillance footage of acts of violence, fighting, stabbings, shootings, and dead bodies. During the course of the movie, characters (both major and minor) -- including teens -- are shot, stabbed, and/or killed. There's heavy fighting, including attacks with various objects (pool cues, vases, etc.). A prisoner is tied up and tortured (a character pokes a letter opener into his open wound). A woman's face is smashed on a glass table, and her nose and mouth bleed profusely. A fair amount of blood is shown, though the movie isn't overly gory.
Two teens are shown kissing and engaging in "heavy petting." The girl undoes a couple of buttons on her top, but they stop before anything goes further. Otherwise, the movie shows a married couple who are comfortable with each other, but with no real sex or innuendo.
Language is fairly infrequent but contains strong words. "F--k" and "motherf----r" are used a few times. Other words include "bulls--t," "son of a bitch," "penis," "Jesus Christ" (as an exclamation), "hell," and "goddamn." A middle finger gesture is used.
Not applicable
Drinking, drugs, & smoking
Adults drink glasses of wine with dinner.

Parents Need to Know

Parents need to know that The Purge is a futuristic sci-fi/horror movie with a horrific idea: Once a year, American citizens are given a 12-hour period in which they can do whatever they want -- including murder -- legally. This supposedly has the effect of reducing crime and lowering unemployment. Violence is strong throughougt the movie, with various beatings, stabbings, and shootings, with lots of dead bodies (including teens) and a fair amount of blood. Language includes a few uses of "f--k" and other strong words, and a teen couple is shown making out and getting a bit hot and heavy. The movie may inspire discussion about human nature, mob mentality, the function of society, consumerism, exploitation, the rich and the poor, and other hot topics.

What's the story?

In the year 2022, the U.S. government has established an annual 12-hour "purge," during which citizens can do whatever they want, legally, even murder. James Sandin (Ethan Hawke) has made tons of money selling security systems to the wealthy, and as the purge begins, he prepares to barricade himself inside with his wife Mary (Lena Headey) and kids, Zoey (Adelaide Kane) and Charlie (Max Burkholder). Unfortunately, Zoey's boyfriend has snuck in just before lockdown, and Charlie tries to help a homeless man by letting him in, too. These small events eventually lead to a terrifying standoff: James must decide whether to sacrifice one man to save himself and his family or fight and face certain death.

Is it any good?


The movie has a fascinating premise, but it's too dark for most teens, especially younger ones. Writer/director James DeMonaco, who previously wrote the screenplays for The Negotiator and the remake of Assault on Precinct 13, adds a new wrinkle to the "home invasion" subgenre here. His idea of the futuristic "purge" brings up many layers of ideas worth discussing. THE PURGE is clever enough to begin asking these questions right away and to make the audience implicit in the discourse. It's impossible to watch and not wonder, "What would I do?" and "Is this right or wrong?" Or, worse, "What if it's a little of both?"

The movie isn't quite as clever at its story and character level. The typical cat-and-mouse chases around the house rely on characters never looking in the right place at the right time, and it becomes clear that they're more important to the movie as representations than as sympathetic characters. Only Rhys Wakefield as a strangely polite, intelligent, grinning invader provides anything of human interest. Regardless, a movie this smart and ambitious isn't easy to dismiss.

Families can talk about...

  • Families can talk about The Purge's strong violence. Is the violence necessary to express the movie's point? Could it have been less violent? More violent?
  • What do you think of the idea of "the purge"? Would it really lower crime and lessen poverty? What other issues does it bring up?
  • What's the movie's perspective on business? The rich and poor? What reaction do you think the filmmakers expect from viewers?
  • Should Charlie have let in the man calling for help? Why is his good deed punished?

Movie details

Theatrical release date:June 7, 2013
DVD/Streaming release date:October 8, 2013
Cast:Ethan Hawke, Lena Headey, Rhys Wakefield
Director:James DeMonaco
Studio:Universal Pictures
Run time:85 minutes
MPAA rating:R
MPAA explanation:strong disturbing violence and some language

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What parents and kids say

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Teen, 16 years old Written bySean Broucek June 6, 2013

Thought-Provoking, violent film deals with intense ideas.

Parents, this mind-blowing horror-drama hybrid from the director of Sinister is probably on your teen's radar. Just know, most of the mature content will be fine for age 15+. The year is 2022, and there is a 12-hour period where all crime is legal, including murder. One family must decide to kill an innocent man to save themselves, or face the deadly consequences that will follow. I personally enjoyed this movie very well. It's one of my favorite movies now. There is some pill popping, swearing and violence. Violence includes surveillance footage of acts of brutal violence and murder, a stabbing, punching, kicking, slapping, brief torture, and bloody attacks, but it is mostly the disturbing images that are the most mature. Images of bloody handprints, sliced body parts, bloody fingers, dead bodies, and the storyline is built on thematic violence. Kids use medical prescribed drugs, Language includes infrequent use of f--k and s--t, used in derogatory terms. Also includes a middle finger gesture. I would rate this movie PG-13 For Thematic Violence Involving Some Disturbing Images, Brief Strong Language, & Drug Use, and that most mature teens can handle.
Parent Written byKarenDenny June 7, 2013

Creepy, but Nothing New

This movie is suitable for almost any teen. What parents should know is that there are sequences of extreme peril. Violence is strong in the opening scene, but only shown through security footage at a distance. Although a classic cat-and-mouse theme, The Purge brings a creepier element into the movie. Plenty of scenes might make audience members jump or squeal. Violence is a common factor in any thriller, nothing new or over the top. Teens should be okay for this movie.
What other families should know
Too much violence
Too much swearing
Parent of a 14 and 17 year old Written byEleanorWilde June 7, 2013

Appropriate for 14+

I saw this movie just a few hours ago and absolutely loved it! I'm a fan of horror films but this is more of a thriller. I definitely think a mature 14 or maybe even 13 year old could see this movie. Both of my daughters loved this film and my youngest is 14. Yes, viewer discretion is advised, but if your child is mature and doesn't get too easily grossed out, they should be more than fine.
What other families should know
Too much violence